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Centre slashes Odisha’s railway pie

- Rs 60 crore taken away from budgetary allocation for state projects

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 17: The Centre’s decision to further slash the budgetary allocation for the development of railway in the state this year has triggered severe criticism from the BJD.

The party has decided to stop functioning of the railway wagon repair factory at Mancheswar and also stage a dharna outside the headquarters of the East Coast Railway in the city for 12 hours.

In the last week of November, the ministry of railways has reduced Rs 60 crore meant for different railway projects in Odisha. This is the third time that the Union government has slashed railway budgetary allocation for the state during the current fiscal.

In the Railway Budget, the UPA government had allocated Rs 723 crore for various schemes in the state. So far, the amount has been reduced by Rs 166 crore. In July, the allocation was slashed by Rs 100 crore and in September another Rs 6 crore was reduced. A directive to reduce the amount by Rs 60 crore meant for the state in the last week of November, came to light today.

The current reduction of railway budget has put a question mark on various ongoing projects in the state, especially in western Odisha, known for its poverty and backwardness. The ministry has reduced Rs 17 crore from the allocated budget of Rs 40 crore for the Khurda-Balanagir railway project. This project is considered as a vital link between the coastal and western regions of the state. The project is aimed to give a boost to the economy of the western region. The Talcher-Bimalagarh railway project in western Odisha will suffer as their allocated budget of Rs 30 crore has been reduced to Rs 17 crore.

The railway link between Sambalpur and Talcher, a key project as Jharsuguda, is emerging as an industrial hub, is also a victim of the budgetary reduction.

A state government official said Rail Vikash Nigam Limited, a subsidiary of the railway ministry, was not serious in its approach towards the state. “In some projects such as Sambalpur-Talcher and Titilagarh-Raipur projects, not a single pie has been spent. It could be deliberate, so that the allocation for this segment could be further reduced,” the official said.

The BJD had been protesting against the apathetic attitude of the railways towards the state. In a memorandum to the President, it accused the UPA government of step-motherly treatment towards the state.

In a letter to the then railway minister C.P. Joshi soon after the first reduction in October, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said Odisha contributed nearly Rs 7,500 crore to the revenue of Indian Railways. But, the central allocation for the state had not been substantial.